With Washington’s new smoke-free air act slated to go into effect in less than two weeks, the city is looking at making another change to the ordinance.
The city will begin enforcing the law, which prohibits smoking inside all businesses and workplaces, April 15.
Clemco Industries has requested the city change the ordinance to allow for a four-walled smoking shelter that would be located outside the company’s manufacturing facility, according to City Administrator Jim Briggs.
Briggs said under the current ordinance, a structure with a roof and more than one side is in violation of the ordinance.
Clemco proposes to purchase prefabricated smoking shelters that would have a roof and four walls. The structures are similar to shelters at bus stops, Briggs noted.
“My recommendation is to approve this request and let Mark (Piontek, city counselor) draft an amendment to allow them,” Briggs told the council.
Last month, the council amended the smoking ordinance to allow smoking in specific areas of pipe manufacturing facilities for demonstration purposes only and also relaxed the distance from 20 to 10 feet that smokers must stay back from the main entrance to a business or workplace.
“Are we going to be doing this every month, being asked to change the ordinance?” asked Councilman Steve Sullentrup.
Briggs said there is that potential. “But you don’t have to approve them,” he explained. “It’s up to you as the council.”
He said he did not think Clemco’s request is unreasonable.
Councilman Mark Hidritch said he’s seen similar shelters outside industrial plants in the St. Louis area.
“I think we need to help industries who have workers who are smokers,” remarked Councilman Joe Holtmeier.
Joette Reidy, a spokesperson for Breathe Easy Washington, which lobbied for the law, said the council should be “cautious” in extending the use of such shelters for restaurants and bars, where nonsmokers and children still could be exposed to secondhand smoke as they walk by. She said the council may want to look at restricting the size of such shelters.
Another suggestion was to limit them to workplaces.
“Let us look at this and come back to you with a recommendation,” Piontek told the council.
Briggs said a couple of weeks ago he spoke with the owner of Kiel’s Party Hole, a tavern on East Fifth Street, who said he had petitions with between 1,500 and 1,700 signatures requesting the council repeal the ordinance.
Briggs said he told the owner to attend Monday’s meeting and submit the petitions, but he did not attend.
“This could be an issue at a future meeting,” Briggs said.
The new law does not prohibit smoking in private residences unless they are used as a childcare, adult daycare or health care facility. It does allow a hotel or motel to designate 20 percent of rooms for smoking, but only until Jan. 22, 2014, when that clause of the ordinance will be reviewed. The act also exempts hookah lounges until Jan. 22, 2014, when that provision also will be reviewed.
Citizens can read the full ordinance at the city of Washington’s website.